SNA member Sarah Maver discovered her passion for school nutrition during her dietetic internship at Massachusetts General in Boston. She decided to do a concentration in school foodservice management, and after a stint with Boston Public Schools Sarah knew that school nutrition was where she wanted to be.
“That internship really solidified my interest in school nutrition. After I became a dietitian I went to work for New Haven Public Schools in Connecticut, which is about fifty schools and 20,000 students,” explained Sarah. “I made menus, developed recipes, and trained staff on meal guidelines.”
After working for a few other school districts, Maver decided to go back to school and applied to the Yale School of Public Health, where she is pursuing her master’s degree in public health. Because the program is only offered full-time, Sarah found herself a full-time college student once again.
“Even using my savings, I still had to take out a lot of loans, so this scholarship helped lighten that burden,” reported Sarah. “I could work fewer hours at a part-time job, which is great. The scholarship was extremely valuable to me.”
Grateful for the opportunity to ease some of that financial burden through an SNF scholarship, Sarah throws herself into her schoolwork in an effort to learn as much as possible, so she can bring that knowledge back to a school nutrition arena after graduation. She also relies on SNA resources to stay current on important topics while she’s absent from a school setting on a daily basis.
“This summer I interned at the USDA in the Nutrition Policy & Promotion division—that’s where they made MyPlate and where they write the dietary guidelines for Americans. It was awesome to see the policy piece that informs the school guidelines—that kind of came full circle for me. When I graduate in May, I look forward to getting back into it.”
In the meantime, Maver checks in with the Webinar Wednesday series on a regular basis to keep current on school nutrition topics.
“I use them a lot for my continuing education credits, and right now while I’m not working in a school, Webinar Wednesdays helps keep me up to date on topics important to me.”
Looking ahead to her working life after graduation, Sarah says she’s open to many options; her combined work experience and education have prepared her to take on a new set of challenges, and she’s ready to get started.
“Being able to work at the school level, the district level, the state level, and the national level has been wonderful. I love to see how different levels work together to make everyone’s job easier, and to make the end product better.”
Sarah sees that end product as the ultimate challenge facing school nutrition professionals at the moment, specifically, “maintaining quality while controlling the cost” said Sarah.
“The new standards were difficult to implement, but now that everyone has gone through that once, everyone is more than capable of rising to the challenge with any new changes. When you’re trying to keep costs as low as possible, sometimes the quality can suffer which is difficult because you want to make sure the kids who really need the meal will like and eat the meal.”
Luckily, says Maver, school nutrition professionals are great at what they do.
“There has been a lot of innovation lately, and people are really getting creative—with marketing, with displays, with salad bars and bringing demonstrations into the cafeteria, and kids get really excited about that. The more that happens, the more positive effect that can have for all of us.”